First of a run of excellent shows: First killer Dark Star? First Eleven with vocals?
This is the start of a great run of shows on 4 consecutive nights: 8/21, 8/22, 8/23, and 8/24 (Two from the vault – which is probably one show, from 8/24). These shows, similar in style and set list are one of the highlights of the year (another being February-March). The difference between these and the February-March shows is that the Dead had stared to shift from the Anthem of the Sun material and sound to that of the Live Dead album. The Anthem material, though still exciting and hot, isn’t as good as that of earlier of the year. The Live Dead material is better than earlier in the year, approaching the peak in 1969.
In this 8/21/68 show, we’re missing the beginning of Cryptical and Dark Star. Jerry’s vocal is volume is low during the reprise of Cryptical, but the organ is well mic’d throughout. It’s a good Cryptical>Other One, but the end fizzles, not transitioning or really ending: it just devolves into tuning. Schoolgirl features tight playing, some nice guitar work, and top-notch vocal, harp, and organ by Pigpen.
Alligator starts in kind of mellow (for 1968) bounce, but heats up after Drums, more like the psychedelic versions typical of 67-68, but with several turns in the road. In it, Jerry plays the Mountain Jam theme (common at the time). A few minutes near the end, Jerry plays the Goodnight theme, much as he would do at the end of Going Down the Road starting a few years later. You almost expect him to go into Not Fade Away (still a few years away), but they turn back into psychedelia and a short bit of feedback.
Now comes the highlight of the show: the entire second set, which is basically the set list of Live Dead. At the time of this review, there’s a two-month gap in 1968 shows at archive. During this two months Dark Start evolved. I’ve listened to all of the Dark Stars her at Archive from the 12/67 3-minute studio version onward, and this is the first serious Dark Star, the start of the golden age of Dark Stars. This golden age ended in some time in 1970. The Dark Star of these August shows is far superior to the 1971 Dark Stars. These late ‘60’s Dark Stars explore interesting places with musical jamming, not space, but with rhythm and structure. Here, Jerry and Phil intertwine in a psychic dance on top of the hypnotic organ and rhythm section.
This is also the earliest Dark Star>St. Stephen>Eleven sequence here at Archive.org
(is it the first?), and the only one of this run of shows. (Earlier in the year, China Cat held the St. Stephen spot.) This sounds a like the Live Dead version of March 1969. Nice vocal harmonies in St. Steven.
This is also the earliest The Eleven here at Archive that includes the vocals. The Eleven jam is electric and driving. It makes an amazingly smooth, slow, imperceptible transition into a powerful Death Don’t Have not Mercy with a great vocal by Jerry. Just fabulous stuff.
Jerry is on fire on Lovelight, and Pigpen does his usual stellar job. The end of Lovelight is cut off, unfortunately. Midnight Hour is average, not as good as the preceding set.
As of this writing, there are three versions of this 8/21 show here at Archive. They seem to all be from the same source. This one has one problem: It also has the annoying feature of having Schoolgirl twice. The first track includes Schoolgirl. You hear again when you go to track 2.
may sound slightly flatter, slightly less high frequencies. For these reasons, I prefer the version called gd1968-08-21.sbd.cotsman.1735.sbeok.shfn_vbr